Pebble Beach celebs: Distraction or tonic?

Thu, 09 Feb 01:35:00 2012

While golf fans will relish the chance to rub shoulders with celebrities such as Huey Lewis and Bill Murray at this week's Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, the event's pro-am format can be a mixed blessing for the players.

2009 Actor Bill Murray - 0

For some, the entertaining antics and incessant autograph signings by big-name actors and musicians can be a frustrating distraction. Others, however, regard it all as a welcome and relaxing tonic.

"I have played with my same playing partner every year for the last six years so I enjoy the week here," Irishman Padraig Harrington said at Pebble Beach Golf Links.

"It is one of the more relaxed events, especially all around ... on the golf course and off the golf course. It's one of the events you always enjoy going to."

Harrington, a triple Major champion, will once again be partnered by Irish businessman and racehorse owner JP McManus.

American film star Murray, a tournament fixture in recent years, is probably the slowest moving celebrity in the field with his unique approach to the week.

The most notable amateur to compete in the event since fellow actor Jack Lemmon, Murray is renowned for his high-octane and unpredictable entertainment out on the course.

He has swung baseball bats on the 18th green, wrestled a woman in a sand trap, attacked television cameramen and tackled a windblown umbrella.

Last year, Murray's wise-cracking antics proved to be a perfect formula for his golf professional D.A. Points who won both the tournament and the pro-am title.

"Bill is an entertainer and he knows that," said Points who, like Murray, is a native of Illinois. "When we're out there I learned quickly that he's there to entertain the people who are watching.

"Sometimes it's at my expense  sometimes it's at Duffy Waldorf's expense, whoever. But he's not trying to be a distraction. He's like: 'Hey, this is what I'm here for. This is why I've been coming here for so many years. I love to play golf, and I love to have fun with the fans.'

"He even said to me: 'Let's have fun.' If it's taking a bite of a donut on the second green after we make a birdie or chest bumping or giving knuckles or whatever it is, it's about having fun."

Tiger Woods, who will partner Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo this week, believes most of his fellow players are well accustomed to being distracted out on the course.

"Yeah, it's different and there are distractions," the former world number one said. "Some guys have the gallery clapping when they're putting. It's very interesting sometimes.

"It can be distracting, there is no doubt. But then again, we play week-in and week-out and we have plenty of distractions when you're in the last few groups (in a tournament). It's just like that for all four days here."

In Romo, Woods has a partner who plays off scratch and has previously tried to qualify for the U.S. Open.

"He can play just about any sport he wants. He's one of those gifted athletes that whatever he picks up, he can do," said 14-times Major winner Woods.

"He understands how to play and, on top of that, he can really move the ball. Post football, he wants to play golf. He wants to maybe give it a run on the mini tours or the Senior Tour eventually."

Entertainment has been part-and-parcel of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am since the event was first held in 1937 as the Bing Crosby Professional-Amateur at Rancho Santa Fe Country Club north of San Diego.

After six years at Rancho Santa Fe, the tournament moved up the Pacific Coast to the picturesque Monterey Peninsula where crooner Crosby provided the $10,000 purse.

For a time known as Crosby's "Clambake", the pro-am event has always been underpinned by its celebrity presence.

Among the amateur stars in action this week are musicians Lewis, Michael Bolton, Darius Rucker and Kenny G, film stars Murray, Chris O'Donnell, Andy Garcia and Don Cheadle, plus NFL quarterbacks Romo and Aaron Rodgers.

Reuters

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